In an ageing Chevrolet Chevette, he drove nearly 14,000 miles through 38 states to compile this hilarious and perceptive state-of-the-nation report on small-town America.
From the Deep South to the Wild West, from Elvis' birthplace through to Custer's Last Stand, Bryson visits places he re-named Dullard, Coma, and Doldrum (so the residents don't sue or come after him with baseball bats). But his hopes of finding the American dream end in a nightmare of greed, ignorance, and pollution. This is a wickedly witty and savagely funny assessment of a country lost to itself, and to him.
©1989 Bill Bryson; (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
This is the story of Bill Bryson's journey around America to try to reconnect with the home of his youth, and his general disillusionment with the America he finds. He visits historically significant places turned into incredibly commercialised and tacky tourist attractions, endures the mind-boggling insularity and repetitiveness of small town radio stations on his long days of driving, and remembers humorous experiences from his childhood.
William Roberts' narration is conversational and expressive, which really suits the material. We share the author's bewilderment at the multitudes of fat holidaymakers he encounters everywhere he goes, his fond ridicule of his father's clueless behaviour that made every childhood holiday a disappointment, and his hopeful search for parts of the perfect small town he calls Amalgam.
Bryson has a PG Wodehouse-like ability to use unexpected words very precisely to hilarious effect. I loved his made up place names like Fartville, Idaho or Spotweld, Indiana. I laughed out loud many times.
The Lost Continent is very funny but also a bit melancholy in its realisation that many of the charms of mid-century America are gone forever. In audio format it's a great listen.
"There are better Bill Bryson audiobooks"
Have the older, kinder Bill Bryson go back in time and take this journey. While some of his commentary was both hilarious and heartwarming, like many other reviewers, I was startled at how mean-spirited this book could be in comparison to Bryson's later works. He is comparatively positive about Iowa and the Midwest, as he waxes nostalgic about his childhood in Des Moines (and as an Iowan myself, I both confirm his assessment of our state and breathe a sigh of relief that his memories were good ones!) His commentary on other regions, particularly the South and Appalachia, was gratingly negative. Perhaps he was still in the process of finding his comedic voice, but I often found myself sympathizing with the unassuming and often kind people he was lampooning. The reader choice did not help matters any.
Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe.
This is Bryson at his most...curmudgeonly...and William Roberts was perhaps not the best narrator for this task. My first encounter with this book was of the dead trees variety; I noticed the negative tone then, but Roberts seemed to draw it out in the worst way, making the narrator seem even more smug, arrogant and rude, when Bryson's voice tends to be more self-deprecating and light-hearted. The advantage of this version is that it is unabridged; perhaps I was better off with my old beaten-up paperback, read in my head with Bryson's less irritating voice.
If you are a Bryson fan, perhaps try to find a version that he reads himself.
On the whole, I would still recommend the book, but not as an introduction to Bill Bryson if you haven't read any of his stuff before. He's less of a jerk in his later books, so if you've read Neither Here nor There, A Walk in the Woods, or Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, you'll approach The Lost Continent in a more forgiving mood. This is his first major book, and he's still honing his voice.
It's also worth listening to simply because you can see the connections between his travels and topics that he covers in his later works, for instance, his near-visit to the Biltmore Mansion vis-a-vis his lengthy treatment of the Vanderbilt family in At Home: A History of Private Life. Don't expect that level of research in this book--this is primarily a travelogue--but it is interesting to get a glimpse of the context behind some of his more recent nonfiction books.
"Written by Bryson's evil twin"
I have listened to every one of Bryson's audio books here on Audible.com.
I really like Bryson. He makes even the most mundane topics engrossing.
And it's not that he completely hates America. A Short Walk where he talks about hiking the Appalacian Trail is wonderful and very positive.
But in this early book his nastiness on American is not just palpable, it's suffocating.
In addition, instead of Bryson's warm, folksy reading that I have come to enjoy, William Roberts's reading makes even warm thoughts on America come out snide and snarky.
I pushed myself to listen to the whole thing so I would feel entitled to write a review.
But if I could, I would have rewound the tape to erase it from my brain.
"Not one of my favorites"
This is one of Bryson's earliest books, published in the late 80's. As such, it lacks much of the humor that balances his snarkiness, leaving a book that seems to have been written by a curmudgeon. Americans have a lot of issues, but I found the book mean spirited. I also couldn't figure why he chose to travel during the cold, rainy season when some of the prettiest parts of the west weren't accessible. Maybe he wanted a better comparison with life in England.
"I had no idea who he was."
My girlfriend suggested I listen to this and I had my doubts, but I figured I had little to lose as I am always looking for a good book to listen to. I listened to this while doing a 1000km drive through my home province and a lot of what was being said really sank in and made me laugh. It's a dated book but very good.
"Bill Bryson does America like no-one else!"
Bill Bryson's ability to sum up a character in a few well-chosen words, combined with his insight into the American psyche, make this a highly enjoyable and easy-to-listen-to book. I loved it - from beginning to end.
"Every bit as good"
As all the others he's released. Insightful and funny.
"Bill Bryson bitches his way from coast to coast!"
I barely finished this. I love Bill Bryson, and maybe his own narration would have saved this for me, but the incessant whining and kvetching about the state of the union read so emphatically was trying. Maybe this was novel and clever during the Regan Administration (when this was written), but it's tiresome now. Not nearly as informative as his other works, either. Too bad I saved it as the last of his books to listen to. He's better on foreign soil, in his own voice.
"Not my favorite B.B. book."
No. I read this book years ago, and thought I liked it. Ive read most of Bill Bryson's books, and consider myself a fan. Listening to Lost Continent, I realized it is much more mean spirited then I remembered. I was very surprised, and a little disappointed.
Mr. Bryson does find some interesting things along the way on his road trip, but has very little charity for when his expectations are not met. I guess the tittle "Lost Continent" should have clued me in that his opinion of the trip was mostly negative.
Mr. Bryson revels in mocking several of the places he visits. He does this in many of his travel logs, but seldom so often or with such enthusiasm.
I read this book once before, and remembered it being more light hearted and fun. Hearing it in the author's own voice somehow makes it seem more serious and his attacks more vicious.
"Count's stop laughing superbly read ."
So life like with a lots of humor
Down under by Bill Bryson (as well)
He is a great reader by any standard.
"Bill's sophmoric, condescending journey"
As a longtime devotee of Bill Bryson, I was hugely disappointed in this book. Mr. Bryson somehow left his sense of humor on the dock at Liverpool and returned to America expecting to be disappointed, disillused and dismayed. He was not disappointed. His journey throughout the heartland, south and west of the United States is related in condescending, humorless, and unforgiving fashion that leaves the reader wondering why he did not catch the next plane back to the UK. Predictably nothing he finds approaches the quality, charm, beauty or intelligence of the UK or Europe for that matter. It is an unhappy journey amongst people he finds it impossible to respect and through a land barren of charm or beauty. Worst of all, Mr. Bryson does not narrate this but it is done by Mr. Roberts who seems to turn even the slightest bit of humor into a long, cold look down his long English nose. I couldn't wait to finish this audiobok and would not recommend it to anyone not looking to bash the US at every turn.
"The road trip you're dying to take"
I won't be the first person to tell you that Bryson is smart, funny, and has absorbed British sarcasm by osmosis so seamlessly that it almost trumps us when narrated in the velvety American accent of the actor on this audiobook. Small town America is pulled apart, examined forensically by each of its cast of stock characters and institutions, and then put back together with a new-found affection by both you and the author. This book is like dismantling an old Chevy, finding that it still works, restoring it and then driving it around proudly. You'll feel both the European distaste for anything nouveau that Bryson has adopted, and the universal pull towards Americana. Brilliant.
"Worth the subscription on its own .."
What a gem! Tasked with a new routine that involved more bus journeys, I popped this on my 'pod to accompany me to work. Bad idea. I find very few things make me laugh out loud in public but this is most definitely an exception. On more than one occasion I found myself biting into my fingers to suppress a snort of laughter when all else was calm. He writes like blokes in the pub talk; with honesty and vivid descriptions of events where you can actually see them without being there. There's the occasional expletive thrown in but used in such a way as to reveal his true feelings in certain situations. The narrator Roberts is perfect, I'm sure Bill approves.
Have listened to this book and found it brilliant,very well written by Bryson and great narration by William Roberts. Fantastic wit, some informative insights into rural American small town life, and great when he throws in the odd 4 letter word. I will be downloading all Byrson books in the near future but only the ones with Roberts narrating, he does a wonderful job.
They make a great team. If you are like me and have looked at these books and were not sure if you would like them, just listen to one.
"Classic Bryson, great narrator"
Funny anecdotes from a roadtrip through rural USA. A great reading of a hillarious book
Whilst amusing for the first 4 or 5 times, unfortunately Bryson's inimitable style of reviewing the places he visits become simply repetitive and dull, and by the time I'd reached Wisconsin I could take no more. The humour isn't terrible but just the same as so many of his other books. Couldn't finish this one. Narration is actually ok - fits Bryson's style just fine and not as annoying as some other reviewers considered.
"Bit too cynical"
I love Roberts's narration as always. Some of this was funny and Bill is always interesting; but he is so cynical in this book, verging at times to unpleasantness rather than ascerbic wit. I would give this a pass. Choose A Walk in the Woods instead.
As always. Bill Bryson is entertainment from beginning to end. Never a dull page, let alone a dull chapter.
"Excellent combination of author and narrator"
Once again, Bill Bryson's words and William Roberts' narration take this audio book into my personal top ten. Bill's travels across America are told in his usual observant and witty style. Full of interesting facts, anecdotes and laugh-out-loud moments.
Would definitely recommend it.
This is without doubt the best audiobook i have listened to thus far.
The only real character in the book, the man himself, Bill Bryson!
This is the first time i have listened to a William Roberts performance, the man is an absolute genius. I found myself still sitting in my car long after i had parked up, still listening to him. I couldn't tear myself away!
Apart from laugh most of the way through it, the book also brought feelings of nostalgia and that heart warming feeling you get from remembering the good times when you were a child.
I would highly recommend this audiobook to anyone i know, and everyone i don't! It is expertly read and a joy to listen to from start to finish. Another gem from Bill Bryson.
"Mr Bryson does it again.....excellent."
Once again another great listen from a Mr Bryson book. His trip around nearly all the US states has it all, pride, shame, fear about his homeland but above all it's really funny. You certainly cannot accuse Mr Bryson of being completely (and typically) gung-ho about his country and compatriots and he does tell it how it is. I certainly would recommend having a map of the country handy too so you can try and follow his progress.
As for the Roberts vs Bryson debate that other reviewers mention, I think they are both great narrators. So there!
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